France Telecom bins Le Monde bid

France Telecom has withdrawn from the race to acquire French daily Le Monde, despite stating on Friday it would leave the offer open until the paper’s board met today.

Le Monde rejected the €100 million bid by France Telecom , media mogul Claude Perdriel and Spanish media group Prisa, in favor of a rival €110 million bid from tycoons Pierre Berge, Matthieu Pigasse, and Xavier Neil, WSJ reports.
While Orange responded by stating it believed its consortium offered a better deal because it would help Le Monde protect its online content, today the firm changed its mind and withdrew “out of respect” for the newspaper’s board, and to prevent influencing the outcome of its decision.
The winning trio have promised to maintain the newspaper’s editorial independence, and have granted staff the right to veto future changes to the business, the Telegraph reports.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy had backed the France Telecom consortium’s bid. The government holds a stake in the telco, and Sarkozy was reportedly keen to prevent Le Monde slipping into the hands of left-wingers, the paper said.

Le Monde was forced to seek a buyer after racking up debts of up to €120 million, prompting fears a sale would spell the end of the paper’s strict independence.